Mission Impact. A Book Review.

I was recently asked to review Mission Impact by Robert Sheenan Jr. as it could be used as a textbook in a local college. I found it a good book, so my review may seem harsh. As a text book however, books need to be more suited for discussion, and I found this book not open to this sort of use.

Mission Impact is written to inform the NPO, or Non-Profit Organization on how to bring strategic planning into their organizations by means of strategic tools found in the For-Profit world. Their sub-title “Breakthrough strategies for Nonprofits” is their vision for the book. Sheenan attempts to bring strategy from the for-profit business world into the non-profit missional or humanitarian world.

Sheenan discusses what non-profit strategy is and how to design it. He develops the reader’s thoughts on setting their organization’s mission, vision and strategic goals. He offers many tools on organizational assessments, and strategy development tools, much like the SWOT plan. He also briefly discusses the management of the new strategies.

Perhaps one of the best things about this book is that Sheenan strategically created a few fictional NPO’s to show how they can implement his strategies. This was well-crafted. Sadly though, I would suggest that this was the most strategic part of the book. Written by a strategist, I was shocked that the overall flow of the book felt incredibly un-strategic. While the content was solid, the strategy of the book was lost in tools and would not strategically lead the reader through them to success.

Sheenan’s apparent lack of understanding on how vital the vision of the organization is, reminded me of how the business world has two clear patterns of business. Consider the war between Apple and Microsoft. Apple sets the vision for its customers of a life that is different. This causes them to not only buy their product, but adopt Apple’s dream as their own. Microsoft seems willing to simply sell their product—so they make it cheap to get it out. The vision of Apple causes them to become a movement, whereas Microsoft’s survival rests on inexpensive products. If they fail to produce them, their consumers will leave. Vision allows the consumer to become bought -into not only the product, but the dream of a better future. Vision brings hope, and according to Warren Buffet, hope is one of the capitalist’s most vital outcomes.

Pros

  • Great tools for strategic design, such as SWOT ideas and charts
  • Well-thought-out examples of fictional companies implementing tools.
  • Solid explanations of strategy.

Cons

  • A book on strategy that is not strategic makes you question the strategies themselves.
  • A business view of strategy, not a movement view. Does not look for long-term impact, but short-term survival.
  • A seemingly lack of understanding on how NPO’s treat and encourage their main stakeholders.
  • It’s written in MBA language, not MDiv language. Huge disconnect for many of those actually in the NPO world.
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